June 6, 2024

Quantum startup Pasqal partners with US competitor IBM to develop ‘quantum-centric supercomputing’

The partnership will see the two companies collaborate to create new standards in the sector

Paris-based quantum computing startup Pasqal is joining forces with US tech giant IBM to work on technologies that combine the capabilities of quantum and conventional computers.

The two companies are usually portrayed as competitors: Pasqal is one of Europe’s best-funded startups building quantum computers, while IBM has poured billions into the technology and is considered a leader in the sector. 

But they are now set to collaborate to develop what is known as ‘quantum-centric supercomputing’ — a term coined by IBM to describe the integration of quantum and conventional computations within a single workflow to make the most of what each technology is best at.


“A quantum processor is useful to carry out certain tasks within a more complex workflow — a workflow where you have to orchestrate different computing resources, whether they are classical or quantum,” says Loïc Henriet, Pasqal’s co-CEO. 

“Quantum-centric supercomputing is about using these quantum resources as best as possible.”

Pasqal and IBM will work together to develop the software architecture that is needed to run a quantum-centric supercomputer. 

Quantum-centric supercomputing

Although Pasqal and IBM both build quantum computers, they are pursuing different approaches to the technology.

IBM’s quantum computers are based on superconducting qubits. This means that the company uses electrons to create quantum bits — the tiny particles that carry quantum information inside quantum computers. Pasqal’s technology uses an approach called neutral atoms, which uses specialised lasers to trap single atoms to form qubits. 

One of the objectives of the collaboration is to create a software architecture for quantum-centric supercomputing that is compatible with different types of approaches to quantum computing.

“You could imagine a workflow where you have IBM computations at one point, Pasqal computation at another point, or both at the same time,” says Henriet.

“It is important to create new standards that will enable the market, where we are seeing high demand, to have an easy and integrated access to our technologies,” says Nicolas Proust, Pasqal’s head of strategy. 

The partnership will also see Pasqal and IBM working together on the applications of quantum-centric supercomputing in materials science and chemistry.

A European champion

Pasqal is touting today’s collaboration as a major stamp of approval. 

“IBM is one of the leaders in classical computing,” says Proust. “Having this validation from a historical player established in another geography shows that we’ve been able to scale in just five years.”

Since it launched in 2019, Pasqal has raised $140m from investors including the European Innovation Council, Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek and Saudi oil and gas giant Aramco.


It also recently sold a 200-qubit quantum computer to Aramco, meaning that it is positioned competitively against other companies: IBM, for example, sells a 127-qubit quantum processor.

At a time when partnerships between high-profile European startups and US tech giants are closely scrutinised, the French startup says that the new collaboration does not reflect a move away from Europe.

“There is no sovereignty issue linked to the partnership, because there is no transfer of capital or relocalisation of our R&D,” says Proust.

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a reporter for Sifted based in Paris and covering French tech. You can find her on X and LinkedIn